Author Topic: "Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich  (Read 4719 times)

steffie

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« on: October 13, 2006, 11:33:23 AM »
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...maybe the paleo-feminists who chanted and marched for equal rights get a little tiresome at times. But you can thank them for your belly button jewelry and your right to display it in public.


link

This seems appropriate to be thinking about, as the SWC crisis is upon us.  (I'm sure Debra has linked to this somewhere but I cannot find the thread; sorry.)  What struck me while reading this article is the feeling that some women (such as the one, Ms Cox, who is mentioned in this article) are proceeding under the assumption that the battle for equality can be won by dressing the part (business suit and high heels, with pinky toe amputated) and meeting men straight on.  I wish for an equality that includes ALL women, rich or poor, of all colours and ethnicities, working in or out of the home.  

I wish I could articulate as well as Ehrenreich, but suffice to say she has nailed what some "modern" feminists fail to understand or want to fight for.  It's just plain frustrating.   :rant
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do - Rumi

kuri

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2006, 12:30:25 PM »
Ehrenreich annoys me there, though, with her US-centrism. I.e. her assumption that feminism is solely "western". That it is "our secret weapon" against so-called "Islamism". I guess feminists like RAWA don't even exist in her world. How could they, amongst the anonymous burka wearing hoards?  :roll: She makes her point but is it ever limited.

sparqui

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2006, 10:23:07 PM »
That a really good point kuri. For example, I think the grandmothers who are now the caretakers of so many orphaned children in African communities, many of the little ones also afflicted with HIV/AIDS should be considered heroines to feminists and should have our support. That's just one example of many from impoverished parts of the world. In addition to RAWA in Afghanistan, there are countless of grassroots women's organizations throughout the world. There is one such group focused on fighting violence against women in tiny, beleaguered East Timor.
If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a tractor. -- Gilles Duceppe

skdadl

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2006, 05:49:20 AM »
I think I read that review by Cox of Pollitt's book (did someone here link to it?). I hadn't read much of Cox before and decided part way through the review that I was glad I'd never wasted the time. She's a self-centred lightweight, near as I can tell, snerking at a serious and talented writer and thinker. I would call sexist on whichever editor assigned her the book, frankly. In looking for the right reviewer for a serious writer, you look for a writer of comparable merit, not just someone famous for having the same genitalia, which is all Cox is. (And wasn't that review in the NY Times? If so, they're sexist jerks.)

I agree with kuri that Ehrenreich is disappointing here. She had a good enough topic -- why the funny segue into Islam-bashing? As kuri and sparqui both say, if Ehrenreich's feminist sympathies were broader, more international, she would find added support for a good argument about how rich feminism is in the women's work and organizing of many other nations.

I think that steffie wanted us to discuss the opening topic that Ehrenreich seems to scant -- that flashy celebs like Wonkette haven't really got feminism yet -- so why don't we?

These divisions among feminists actually date back at least to the mid/late 70s, when the dress-for-success liberal feminists took over centre-stage from the more political women's liberationists (often their younger selves). That bothered me when it happened, although there were practical reasons for it (after arguing for economic independence, women  discovered that they had to bite the bullet and earn a living, eh?). But it changed the popular image of what the women's movement meant, in some ways made feminism more superficial, more a purely equity  movement for middle-class career women, which is one of the (often-alienating) stereotypes of feminism that many younger people grew up with.

The mirror-image stereotype is the hairy-legged man-hating stereotype -- has anyone ever actually met one of those? That's the stereotype that Dworkin was martyred to -- it wasn't a fair view of her, but it became an effective bogeywoman for the anti-feminist propagandists.

So we've ended up with a lot of mutual misunderstanding, I think. I really resist the division by generations because I think it is mostly founded on misconceptions, but if enough younger people (and I include men -- I think it is important what men know and believe about feminism) believe that we are divided that way, then of course that division becomes real.

The factors that work on us all that complicate any political commitments we make, including to feminism: we all have to earn a living; and we are all daily and deeply affected by a popular culture that celebrates consumption and, well, celebrities. I think those are the pressures that have most people living in fear of a serious commitment to social justice, longing instead for some easy way to save themselves from the struggle.

That is a longing that is easy to understand. And it is frustrating all good politics, including feminism.

anne cameron

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2006, 11:37:51 AM »
And fatigue, Skdadl.  Bone weary, at times, of still having to counter the mouth breathers, diddle wits, witherdicks and numbrains.

And it's exhausting to attend, for example, an all candidates meeting, and see women candidates who seem blandly and blithely unaware of the triumphs and victories which put them up there with the other candidates.

I watch my grandchildren and, at times, it feels as if I'm watching an alien life form... in some ways we've "come a long way, baby", and in other ways...not.  

I am at times appalled by the way teen-aged boys talk to and treat their girlfriends.  And saddened by the way the girls seem to feel the boys have some kind of right to so openly disrespect them.

And , yes, grandma DOES "butt in" and call the first hint of piggery.  I'd like to be able to "butt out" and not interfere with their choices but.... the old knee jerks and when, almost inevitably, the boy says "just jokin', grandma", I have my example ready.  My grandkids are registered status first nations, so I just repeat whatever it was got said substitution "indians" for "girls"... then we just sort of stare at each other as they try to sort through their own feelings.

And , no, I don't think it's dirty pool at all.

steffie

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2006, 04:23:27 PM »
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I think that steffie wanted us to discuss the opening topic that Ehrenreich seems to scant -- that flashy celebs like Wonkette haven't really got feminism yet -- so why don't we?


Yes, this is the thing that really gets under my skin.  It's the same creeping anxiety that started in university when I first read about divisions within feminism.  It's hard to figure out:  why don't all women agree on a basic standard of equality for all women?  Is it because "equality" is so difficult to define?  Is it because women who have historically been silenced (WOC and the poor) resent the way the more priviledged women wear their feminism?

And what about the different ways in which each of wears her feminism.  As diverse as any other group of individuals, each of us identifies in her own unique way to the "movement".  Yet, we all deserve to be treated/paid the same as others.  

Is it because it's so difficult to decide whether to fight against an injust system, or to try to be agreeable and "go with the flow", perhaps bringing it down from within?  Is the feminist movement dying?  Or morphing yet again?  At the very least, as anne says, it is "bone tired."
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do - Rumi

lagatta

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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2006, 04:49:08 PM »
Why on earth would women agree about anything? I don't feel anything particularly in common with Margaret Thatcher - or Angela Merkel, to take someone more my age - a religious fundamentalist or a corporate exec, just because they happen to have a vagina. There is a historical "defeat" of women and an oppression that cuts across societies and social classes, but there are also a lot of antagonisms. Not just between "the poor" and the privileged, but between the working class and the ruling class. We can't put off women's demands until the overthrow of class rule, but we can't do the opposite either, and feign sisterhood where none exists.
" Eure \'Ordnung\' ist auf Sand gebaut. Die Revolution wird sich morgen schon \'rasselnd wieder in die Höhe richten\' und zu eurem Schrecken mit Posaunenklang verkünden: \'Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein!\' "
Rosa Luxemburg

steffie

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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2006, 07:23:24 PM »
Feigned sisterhood?  What happened to the slogan I grew up with - "Sisterhood is Powerful"?  

So, if we can't agree -and you make a good point here, lagatta - then how can there be a movement?   Maybe it's less of a movement and more of an enlightenment.
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do - Rumi

lagatta

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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2006, 07:35:52 PM »
Oh it was and is very much a movement - and the fact that there are such backlashes from Texas to Tehran are more proof that it is a movement - but we can't expect everyone of the female sex to come onside.
" Eure \'Ordnung\' ist auf Sand gebaut. Die Revolution wird sich morgen schon \'rasselnd wieder in die Höhe richten\' und zu eurem Schrecken mit Posaunenklang verkünden: \'Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein!\' "
Rosa Luxemburg

steffie

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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2006, 10:18:25 AM »
True enough, but won't that appear to anti-feminists to be "disunity" and therefore affirm the belief that women's issues aren't worth fighting and paying for?  

Let me get this straight: It is up to a group of women who are united in their struggle for equal rights to achieve equality for all women.  

Even though there are many who would fight against this equality, some of whom are women?

It's this paradox that keeps some women out of active roles.  Because when pressed, some answers to questions about the means and even the goals of the movement are unclear (at least unclear to me. Your patience is appreciated).
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do - Rumi

anne cameron

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« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2006, 12:06:19 PM »
Any kind of change, even change for the better, is frightening.  You might not like what you have but ...what if you lose even that little bit... and what if when you lose it you are suddenly the only one standing between your kids and raw poverty...and what if...

and many women just flat-out freeze.  And I can understand that, I can accept that, and I don't fault the women.  I'd had two miscarriages before I became pregnant with my son.  I was so happy!  And I clearly remember one morning , halfway through a cup of tea, I was hit with the worst slam of fear I have ever felt.  My mom was in the kitchen, visiting, and she said I went dead white.  All I could think was ohmigawd, I can't even guarantee I can look after myself and now...took me most of the day to get myself past that terror.  That I survived it, and the world didn't end and I didn't go mad or become useless stood me in good stead the many times I felt jolts of fear when the thought we might be changing the entire system...and then what... hit me.  We never had any guarantee we were going to make things better!  We still do not have that guarantee.  And we are certainly seeing how bloody nasty and mean-minded the opposition can be, the open assault on all things woman since Harpoon got elected is really scarey.

We might be caught in class inequality but for many people there is the clear thought that there is a lower class into which any "change" might plunge us.

And it is my own class focus which has kept me from being at all comfortable with or around the "upper" class women, and, particularly, academic women who seem to me too often to be doing their damndest to take the most basic things and couch them in such impenatrable jargon as to make them seem to be mysteries.  Which, of course, only they, in their shell of superiority, can understand.

There were half a dozen women at Music Night last night.  We had a wonderful time!  And I'd bet, oh, a cup of morning coffee, that there weren't two who would be able to readily tell you what "hegemony" means.  These are strong women, independent women, self-supporting women, bright women but their vocabulary doesn't include that word or many others and that is no slur against them.  They understand power, they understand control, they understand influence and they sure as hell understand patriarchy, but for the rest of it, let's not get cute and you can toss away the word dialectic as well.

For some of us it's the meat and spuds which are important and for others, well, they've never even dreamed of running short of either so they have other concerns.

I did not walk out of one meeting, because it was like being at a zoo or something, looking at exotic critters I had never before seen.  A meeting about trying to get a transition house, and the group was pretty well indicative of "all women" in town..and after the real business, when we were having coffee and talking a group of women, four or five of them, started talking together about the problems of owning rental property and how the increase in municipal taxes was going to mean...I knew one of the women, we were friendly, I had even ridden in her car to the meeting.  I hadn't known she owned a multi-unit rental property.  I listened to her talking about how it was really not the best return on an investment and with the increased taxes she was really thinking of selling it and putting the money in mutual funds and...and I felt I didn't know her at all.  She's a strong feminist, she has fought like a tiger for Choice, and she's a good person.  And I know it is "class" separates us.

And I don't know what we do about that.  Some of it is education, some of it is job training, some of it is guaranteed annual income and decent public housing and...the nuts and bolts.  But some of it , I think, will still be between us even if tomorrow we win most of what we're struggling to achieve for all of us.  What I do know is that however split off I feel from "upper class" women I have much more in common with them than I have with "upper class" men, or, in fact, most non-workie men.

And for the women who are paralyzed with fear or those who because of fear they will never admit begin to openly side with the oppressors...well, I have understanding, maybe even empathy.  But mostly sorrow because they are so vulnerable.

Even Mz Colter, with whom I neither agree nor sympathise, will one day find out that she has been hung out to dry by her current support group, and for no reason other than that she is female and expendable.

kuri

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2006, 12:07:51 PM »
Quote from: steffie
won't that appear to anti-feminists to be "disunity" and therefore affirm the belief that women's issues aren't worth fighting and paying for?


Maybe, but they'd be wrong. I see it this way: if I had to agree with someone 100% on every single issue in order to work with them on any issue, well, I'd be doing a lot of things all by myself. Better to nurture alliances wherever they come so that things are actually accomplished.

steffie

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"Old Time Feminism" - Ehrenreich
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2006, 09:18:18 AM »
anne, I just finished rereading the wonderful post above for the second and third times.  You have really captured all of the mixed-up feelings and thoughts that I have about women's liberation and "the movement".  For that, I need to say thank you.  It really helps me to see it set in plain language.

In my struggle to categorize my own position within this milieu, I begin to see that, in real life, the categories are vague; they are not the ones caricatured on sitcoms and in other media.  The movement to raise the overall status of all women is at one place grand and well-publicized; other movements, equally profound, are invisible to most.  The movement is an individual, personal as well as a group movement.

the personal is political
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do - Rumi

 

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